In Soccer

NASHVILLE — Nashville Soccer Club turned up the offensive attack on the way to a 4-2 victory over southern rivals Atlanta United FC at Nissan Stadium. The victory extends Nashville’s unbeaten streak to four games, as captain and midfielder Dax McCarty scored a goal and assisted all three other goals.

Unbeaten at home since returning to play in August with two wins and a draw, Nashville (3W-4L-3D) now moves into ninth place of the standings, ahead of Atlanta (3W-6L-2D) and into a playoff spot.

Less than a minute into the contest, Nashville got right to work with a goal. Midfielder Hany Mukhtar won a corner kick and whipped it in towards the near post. McCarty flicked it on to forward Dominique Badji to finish at the back post for his first goal with the club and to add to Nashville’s record as one of the league’s best teams in set pieces.

Atlanta United equalized in the 19’ minute with a free-kick into the box from Argentine midfielder Ezequiel Barco that Jeff Larentowicz redirected at the near post past Joe Willis.

Nashville SC responded with Mukhtar’s first goal in Major League Soccer as Badji won the second ball from an Atlanta throw-in and headed it to number 10, who bested three defenders and the goalkeeper to restore the lead in the 28’ minute.

Eight minutes later, Muyl won the ball off of Atlanta winger Brooks Lennon and found left-back Dan Lovitz bombing down the wing. Lovitz found space for a cross to McCarty who headed it into the back of the net in the 36’ minute.

Nashville’s deep-lying midfielders in Head Coach Gary Smith’s 4-2-3-1 formation, McCarty and Aníbal Godoy, controlled the midfield all game. The entire team timed its defensive traps to perfection, and when Atlanta got the ball into dangerous areas, Nashville collapsed onto the Atlanta players in possession, allowing them no space. Whether they tried to penetrate Nashville’s 18-yard box or build out from defense, Atlanta struggled to break down the hosts.

Twelve minutes into the second half, Nashville extended its lead when McCarty won the ball in the midfield, found space, and played a long ball over the top of Atlanta United’s defense. Danladi ran off the back shoulder of center back Anton Walkes, controlled the pass, and nudged it past Guzan for the 4-1.

In 61’ minute, Atlanta scored the final goal of the evening when Jürgen Damm found striker Adam Jahn on the right wing. Jahn played a cross into space in the box and left-back George Bello nail the 4-2 final score.

Three Things

  • THE BIG PICTURE: With the win, Nashville leapfrogged Atlanta in the Eastern Conference standings. Both would make the playoffs if the season ended today in the expanded 10-team format. But clearly, Atlanta losing its first match to Nashville is one more milestone in a weird 2020 that it didn’t want. (Remember, Atlanta beat Nashville in the expansion team’s first-ever match, back in February, which now seems so long, long ago.)
  • MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Can you have a moment of the match in essentially its first moment? All four Nashville goals deserved attention, but the first one coming in the first minute was a statement. Its effect rippled throughout the opening half, even with Atlanta leveling.
  • MAN OF THE MATCH: We’d be lax if we didn’t give it to Dax. The veteran midfielder had a goal and three assists on the night, and put in nearly a full shift.

Goals

  • 1′ – NSH – Dominique Badji | WATCH

  • 19′ – ATL – Jeff Larentowicz | WATCH
  • 28′ – NSH – Hany Mukhtar | WATCH

  • 36′ – NSH – Dax McCarty | WATCH

  • 57′ – NSH – Abu Danladi | WATCH

  • 61′ – ATL – George Bello | WATCH

Next Up

  • NSH: Saturday, September 19 at Columbus Crew SC (7:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+, DAZN in Canada)
  • ATL: Saturday, September 19 vs. Inter Miami CF (7 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+, DAZN in Canada)
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